Brian's Top Games: 2018 Edition
Author: BrianPublished: January 7, 2019
Happy New Year and welcome to our annual top 10 games lists. This week you will get Proper Brian’s list. If you want to make your own top 10 list try our Board Game Ranking Engine. And now, on with the list.
I guess it is true: the older you get the faster time seems to move – so here we are again, at the end of a year. I have a theory about why time seems to speed up but that isn’t what you are here for. You are here to hear about some good games so let’s move right on to that.
This year brought a couple new games into my top 10, both of which I am very excited about. As per our usual I used our Ranking Engine to come up with this list and I feel it is a great representation of my board gaming interests. Thanks so much for stopping by and enjoy the list.
10. SerenissimaI am always a little surprised when I see Serenissima in my top 10 but, in a very good way. It is down one spot from last year but that shouldn’t be considered a mark against it. The fact that it is in my top 10 two years running says enough. The reason it has stayed there is two-fold. First, it has found some traction with my local gamers which means more play time. Second, it still has one of the simplest yet best mechanical representations of pick up and deliver on the high seas. Add in some combat spice and you have a winner – and my number 10 this year. I’ll point you to my review of the game if you want more detail.
9. AnachronyThis is also year two for Anachrony in my top ten though it has dropped a few places. This is due to the fact that I have yet to play it in 2018 – something I must amend soon. Even though my top 10 doesn’t show it I have tended to play lighter games this year and Anachrony is not in that category. It is brain burn at its best. The way it handles time travel is genius – like taking a loan from your future self that must be repaid or risk time anomalies which throw off your strategy. I also really enjoy the worker placement mechanism it uses. You can take actions on your player board without much planning ahead. But if you want to take actions on the main board (a post-apocalyptic wasteland) you must prepare and suit up your workers before the action rounds start. Really fun and challenging, Anachrony deserves its place in my top 10.
8. Twilight Imperium 4th EditionOne of my oldest loves is back in my top 10 again! Twilight Imperium took a huge 15 spot leap to be my number 8. Why, you ask? Well, the Fourth Edition, of course! It has reinvigorated my interest in the game. TI4 hones the quintessential but giant space empire game to a (mostly) razor’s edge. Politics, research, battle, conquest – this game does it all in grandiose sci-fi fashion. For me, changes to technology have the biggest impact. Instead of requiring players to constantly reference a technology tree you can simply look at the technology card you want and see what it requires. Honestly, this alone would have brought the game far up in my esteem but they also did a lot of work to the political system. The only thing I wish they had touched for this edition is the combat system which is still clunky. That aside, I cannot deny how much I love this game and how I wish I had time to play it more often.
7. Lords of VegasOne of the things I appreciate most is when a game’s mechanisms make you feel the theme of the game. There is no denying this game can be random and swingy but, hey, this is Las Vegas. What did you expect? It is also a perfect next step into the hobby for those who like Monopoly. Property development, dice chunking, and some luck of the draw but with more strategy and interaction. Oh yes. Strategy and luck can go hand in hand and do in Lords of Vegas.
6. Time StoriesHonestly, I am glad TIME Stories is still in my top 10 this year. The group I was playing it with all moved away and I haven’t yet been able to get another together. But it is still one of the best narrative gaming experiences I have had and strong narrative in games is a big deal to me. TIME stories ended up being the only “legacy-style-ish” game I could finish since each mission only took between 1 and 3 plays. Each mission puts players in a different era trying to figure out some mystery in order to maintain time continuity. One might be medieval Europe, another a zombie apocalypse. I’d love to elaborate on the system here but I will have to refer you to my article about it for the sake of brevity. TIME Stores still deserves its place in my top 10 – I just need to find a new group to play it with.
5. El GrandeScotland Yard may have introduced me the board game hobby but El Grande is what made me excited about it. I remember finishing that first game of El Grande and my brain was on fire thinking about the possibilities. That was 15+ years ago and the amazing thing is, this game has stood the test of time – as attested by its place in my Top 10. Many games that popularize a mechanism to the hobby – in this case, area majority – are usually a very boiled down version of that mechanism. However, El Grande is not a simple area majority game. It combines bidding, unique action cards, and intermittent scoring along with area majority to produce a truly unique and deep experience. While many games get forgotten as they age, El Grande only shines more brightly as a game that stands the test of time.
4. ShogunThe other new game to my top 10 this year is Shogun – and by jumping up 12 places no less. There is much to love about this game but my two favorites are the variable action order (with a bit of randomness thrown in) and the wonderful cube tower used to resolve conflict. Each round a set of action cards is dealt up showing which order they will take place in the coming round. Five are face up and five face down. The face-down cards are revealed as the round progresses. So you know some of what is to come but there is still some unknown which means you can plan, just not perfectly. The cube tower is the best way I have seen to resolve combat. All you do is drop the cubes representing the units in combat through the tower. Some get caught in the tower, some previously caught get knocked loose, and what falls out the bottom shows the result. It is quick, less random than throwing dice, yet still produces excitement at seeing the outcome. And since some cubes can get caught in the tower your past conflicts can impact current ones. I love it.
3. ScytheScythe holds steady at number three and for very good reason. It elegantly combines of so many things I love in board games with style. The action system in the game is simple, intuitive but still provides great decision tension. The board play and territory control are interesting. But the popularity system in the game is the piece that brings is home for me. It makes your aggressive actions mean something – they have a cost. You cannot simply wreak destruction across the map and go happily on your way. Add to all of this the exceptional art and components and you have something close to a masterpiece. If I could change one thing it would be to make the combat more interesting. It is fine, just nothing special. I understand that Rise of Fenris can help this and I am eager to try that expansion. Until then, it will solidly remain my number three.
2. EclipseThe more I look at my list the more I see my proclivity to area control type games – specifically 4X style games. So what makes Eclipse (still) my number two? It is the economy of the game. Sure, designing your ships is interesting, the action system is great, and even the dice-driven combat in the game is fun. But it is the economy of the game that makes it special to me. You have to be very careful how fast you expand in the game or risk economic failure. Your economy is what drives many of your decisions – when to attack, how to research technology, even how you build your ships. And Eclipse is one of the first games that succeeded in merging the Euro and Ameritrash design ideas – something that is pretty common now. I am excited to see what the second edition brings to the table.
1. Star Wars RebellionI remember when Star Wars Rebellion was announced. As details came out about it I knew it was for me. It is the game I had been wanting to play for years and when I finally played it, it shot to my number 1 spot and hasn’t moved. As cliche as it sounds, Rebellion is truly Star Wars in a box. The Empire tries to hunt down the Rebels to secure their rule in the galaxy with a giant iron fist while the Rebels move covertly and try to gain the people’s support to finally overthrow the Empire. Your characters go on missions or lead battles all to support your cause. It truly is a tense Original Trilogy sandbox for you to play in. If you love Star Wars and board games, this game is for you, as it is for me.
About the Author:
Brian | Webmaster
There are few things in life that I enjoy more than gathering around a table with people to make new shared memories through the interactions board games create. I have been playing board games my whole life, but I have been focused on them as a hobby for the past 15+ years. Board games offer a unique medium for social interaction and fun. I really look forward to playing these games with my kids as a way to interact and stay connected with them. In the last several years, I have delved into board game design and found something that really satisfies my need to create in a way nothing else has.
- Favorite Games: Star Wars Rebellion, Carcassonne, 4X games, Legacy games
- Favorite Mechanisms: Worker Placement, Resource/Financial Markets, Deck Building
- Childhood Favorites: Clue: The Great Museum Caper, The Omega Virus, Mystery Mansion